McLaren was F1’s star performer beyond the top teams in 2019, with the British squad finally emerging from three seasons of despair with Honda and another rebuilding with Renault… 

…to secure fourth in the constructors’ championship, as clear best of the rest ahead of the French marque’s works team. Its best result since 2012.

The squad kicked things off in February with a bullish launch showcasing its workforce, and two new drivers. Incredibly, its first all-new line-up since 2006, with rookie Lando Norris and aspiring leader Carlos Sainz.

The Spaniard playing down fans’ expectations from the outset.

“I ask them to be supportive, to be patient because this is not going to be day to day all of a sudden start winning races. It’s going to take a bit of a process, we’re all going to work flat-out, everyone in the factory is working flat-out, the drivers will be working flat-out on driving flat-out and I’m sure we’re going to make it back.”

But, the fans were overjoyed at the end, with the pair taking eight double points finishes. Norris’ best sixth in Bahrain and Austria, Sainz earning a maiden podium in Brazil.

… and securing sixth in the standings on the last lap in Abu Dhabi, with a pass on Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg for 10th.

Norris proved himself as a rookie, outqualifying Sainz 11-10 over the year and building a cult following online as the ‘meme lord’.

F1 fans’ rookie of the year was also the sport’s best prepared debutant, with 11 test days and seven free practices the previous year.

“Training, so physically, mentally - going through with my engineers, Will and Jarv, as many things as we can from the strategy side of things, driving on the simulator, driver preparation, [and] rules - there’s a lot of different things which are very different to the past few years in any other category.”

Next year, McLaren has to be focused on doing what Renault wanted to in 2019, and that’s closing the gap to the top teams.

The momentum is with the Woking squad going into the European winter. McLaren is now moving into giant-killing territory…